A Massachusetts woman who sent texts encouraging her teen boyfriend to die by suicide is appealing her involuntary manslaughter conviction—arguing that the messages were protected by the First Amendment.
Michelle Carter, 21, was convicted last summer for telling 18-year-old Conrad Roy III’s to “get back in” his truck as it filled with carbon monoxide fumes that would ultimately kill him. Now, documents obtained by the Boston Herald revealed that Carter’s attorneys are saying the then-17-year-old’s texts were “cherry-picked” to show her in the most negative light possible. Meanwhile, they claimed that messages where she pushed for Roy to get help weren’t presented in court.
“You aren’t gonna get better on your own…you need professional help …” a text Carter reportedly sent to Roy said.
In the July 29 appeal, Carter’s legal team also argued that the controversial texts that landed a conviction in Roy’s July 2014 suicide were protected by free speech. According to People, lawyers took issue with parts of Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz’s ruling where he found that Carter’s actions and “failure to act” exhibited “wanton and reckless conduct.”
“Because the judge convicted Carter for what she said, or failed to say, not what she did, this case implicates free speech under the First Amendment and art,” they wrote.
Attorney Joseph Cataldo mentioned to The Washington Post that it’s not illegal in Massachusetts to encourage someone to commit suicide. Additionally, he noted that state law has never found someone guilty of homicide based on “words alone.”
“Any new definition of common law can only be applied moving forward, you cannot apply it to past events,” Cataldo commented.
Sentenced to 15 months in jail, Carter remains free on bail pending the outcome of her recent appeal.
[Featured image: Michelle Carter/Peter Pereira/The New Bedford Standard Times via AP, Pool, File]